Europe must stop parroting the Americans
By Robert Fisk
While President George Bush rabbits on about the axis of evil and his crusade against terror, a real tragedy is about to interfere with his mythic struggle against Americas enemies. Its about a place called Palestine. And a place called Israel.
So idle, so lazy, so pro-Israeli has Washingtons policy become towards the Middle East that the President still seems unaware that the real war in the region involves its own allya colonial Israeland a nationalist struggle run by Israels own surrogate Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
President Bush really thinks he is conducting a crusade. True, he was warned not to use the expressionMuslims are not terribly keen on the 11th century Christian knights who slaughtered Muslims and Jews by the tens of thousandsbut he used the word again just five days ago. Speaking of the Canadian soldiers who have rashly joined U.S. troops in Kandahar, Mr. Bush announced they stand with us in this incredibly important crusade to defend freedom.
Crusade indeed. As Palestinians are learning from their Hizbollah compatriots in Lebanon how to resist an occupying forcehow to obtain freedomMr. Bush continues to give the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a green light to strike against terror while at the same time demanding democracy for all Muslim countries in the Middle East, especially Iran and Iraq. But not, of course, for allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The ability of the Americans to re-write history and to blow-dry the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into clichés is a scandal. The occupied Palestinian territories have now become the disputed territories; Jewish colonies on Arab land have become settlements and now, according to the BBC and CNN, neighborhoods. Israeli death squads are now elite forces that carry out targeted killings. In the same way, the American media have declared victory in Afghanistan.
Another lie. Hamid Karzais government controls only a few Kabul streets. Afghanistan is a place of anarchy and lawlessness, of rape and brigandage after Americas war. One of Mr. Karzais own ministers is murdered at the Bagram air base in an inter-cabinet feud. The British Army, which controls the airport, isso we are toldnot responsible. And the Saudis allow the culprits to go free. American B-52s are now bombing enemy soldiersnot enemies of the United States but warring tribesmen who happen to oppose Americas choice of leader, Hamid Karzai. Its an old story. We British were fighting warring tribes in the 1920s. Now the Americans do the same.
Ignoring the Palestinian-Israeli war
And in the meantime, we must ignore the Palestinian-Israeli war. The Palestinian Intifada uprising, provoked by Ariel Sharons visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque, is a strategic error, according to the State Department on Tuesday. An Israeli officer tells his colleagues, according to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, that they must study how the German Army operated in the Warsaw Ghetto. Needless to say the latter report is not published in the United States.
The truth is that the Palestinians have learned from the Hizbollah in Lebanon. You dont have to submit to occupation. You can fight back. With homemade missiles, with crude mines on the roads, with suicide bombers. This is a cruel, ruthless war, the worst year of terror in Israels recent history.
But it is an anti-colonialist war, a struggle against Jewish settlements and I can well see why Professor Arie Eldar, a former Israeli army medical officer, should announce that we must execute him [Mr. Arafat] today.
Yet still the U.S. government parrots whatever Mr. Sharon says. Mr. Arafat must end terrorism, his plot to import Iranian armsalways supposing it can be conclusively proveda symbol of his plans to destroy Israel. Listening to the U.S. State Department spokesman, you might think that the administration really has accepted the insane Sharon thesis that Mr. Arafat is a part of world terror. In fact, given the supine and cowardly American reporting of the Middle East conflict, you might wonder why the Pentagon wishes to create its absurd Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) to peddle truth and lies to the press. U.S. journalists are so gutlessso quick to adopt the government linethat it is surely unnecessary to plunder the $10 billion supplement to the Pentagon budget to sell this kind of trash.
A few days ago, I participated in a live American radio show in which a former State Department official warned that Washington may have to cut its ties with Mr. Arafat unless he curbed terrorhe was, of course, faithfully following the Sharon line. I was supposed to intervene with a plea for Mr. Arafat. In fact, I suggested that Washington should cut all its connections with Mr. Arafatbecause, given the total failure of U.S. policy in the region, it was time the Europeans took over and acted as intermediaries. After the Israelis had vandalized more than 11 million euros worth of Palestinian property supplied by the European Union, why shouldnt we play a role in the Middle East conflict?
Apoplexy reigned. I was not speaking to cue. But why the hell do we Europeans have to speak according to the script? True, we
have the occasional nutter the Czech Prime Minister, for example, this week comparing Mr. Arafat to Hitlerbut in the world where Mr. Bush tells us, like a Hollywood director, that 2002 will be a war year, we have a right to speak out. The United States has a right to its own illusions. The latest, from American intelligencethe heroes who failed to learn of the plot to attack the World Trade Centeris that Afghanistan is threatened by Iran, which has sent hundreds of Arab and Afghan fighters to Mazar-i-Sharif to create mayhem. And of course, these diabolical forces were trained by the Hizbollah in Lebanon.
Needless to say, this rubbish is taken seriously in Washington and in Israel (from whence it came). But we do not have to accept this nonsense. The real battle exists between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Iraq is a sideshow. If Washington wants to reverse the priorities, we Europeans can only pity them. But the condemnation of Mr. Bushs policy by the French and German foreign ministers and by NATOs leadership is real enough. Let us have done with crusades and the war on terror. Lets have some justice in the Middle East. For Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The Independent, February 21, 2002